Hwange National Park is Zimbabwe’s largest and oldest game park ranging over an area of 14,600 km². A Hwange safari is easily combined with a visit to Victoria Falls as the main gate lies only two hours drive south of Vic Falls.
Its sheer size means that it offers a range of vegetation with a resulting diversity of game. This ranges, from the dry southern acacia bush bordering the Kalahari Desert to the mopane woodlands, valleys and granite hills characteristic of the north. Hwange is certainly big game country with massive herds of elephants. These are especially visible at the end of the dry season in September and October. They are joined by lion, buffalo, hyena, giraffe, zebra, wildebeest sable, roan and other antelope.
Game-viewing in Hwange Park is made easier by the shallow salt pans throughout the park. These natural salt pans offer the perfect cooling mud bath for elephants. Ultimately the pans develop into small waterholes. However because of the deep Kalahari sands, these waterholes dry up as the dry season progresses. Hwange is unusual in that, right from the park’s inception, the rangers have pumped water into these waterholes in the dry season. This means that the park is a veritable mecca for game in the dry winter months. A Hwange safari between July to October will offer plenty of wildlife as animals flock to these pans for much-needed water.
We have stayed at many of the Hwange safari camps. They lie in three main areas. Several are in the very attractive south-west of the park in their own private concessions such as Davisons Camp , The Hide Safari Lodge , Camelthorn Lodge and Bomani Tented Lodge. These are accessed via a scenic road transfer cum game drive from Hwange main camp (taking 1½ hours). Another way to access them is via the fun Elephant Express rail car.
Other Hwange lodges such as Miombo Safari Camp and Elephant’s Eye Lodge lie closer to the Main Gate. This means that they are more accessible from Victoria Falls. But also that they lose some of the sense of wilderness. Finally Camp Hwange and Nehimba Lodge lie in the remote north-west of the park approx 1 to 1½ hours from the northern gate. These come into their own later in the dry season. Then the Nehimba ‘seep’ provides one of the only permanent sources of water in northern Hwange. This attracts huge herds of game to the surrounding plains.
Hwange Safari Activities
Alongside the usual morning and afternoon game drives, many of the lodges put a particular emphasis on walking with game. If you have some time to spare, you can also visit the Wild Dog conservation project. Some lodges offer full day game drives into the park to some of the more remote water holes. This has a double benefit. It allows you to go further into the park, enjoying a picnic by one of the watering spots. But it also allows the camps to check on the waterhole pumps and to give much needed supplies to the pump attendants who camp out in the park. Finally some of the lodges support nearby villages so can you can visit these villages and their schools in an uncontrived and natural way.